Picking Myself Up

Just compiled a list of all the videos I’ve uploaded so far, a staggering fifty three, if I’ve counted correctly, within five months. A lot of guitar playing and recording, but clearly not enough writing.

Since self-releasing my book, Bizarre Messaging, back in October, I haven’t quite caught traction on anything significant. During this quarantine, however, I have written a 6,500-word story submission for a horror anthology. If it isn’t accepted I will add it to my latest work, which I completed before even starting Bizarre Messaging, but I have to follow my instincts at this point, and those instincts told me to release the micro-story collection first. As I am without any representation whatsoever, I’m still feeling my way in the reading world. I do know that I will be releasing another collection of short stories, this time of more traditional length ranging from flash fiction to novella-length works. Will reveal the title and cover soon.

Until now. I have been flipping through some ideas over the past few weeks, and have decided on a project to pursue. I have an outline written for another short novel or longer short story, but that can wait for now. It’s a strange feeling writing with an audience in mind. I am a person of manners, but much of my writing, I’m afraid, can be quite rude. It’s this clash of impressions that sort of knots my mind and blocks forward momentum. I have decided to address this by writing something completely without discretion, without the intent of pleasing or offending anyone. I write ideas that make my mind turn, not to express some kind of covert opinion. I have an opinion, for sure, but it’s not my job to try to convince you of your conclusion.

Been a long time since I’ve written in this blog. Used to write an entry every night before midnight, but that becomes a bit tedious when you’re addressing a room of crickets (so I archived them all, over fifty posts). Will try to keep this more active in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

It’s easy to keep things moving with guitar videos, but my true focus is on my writing until I can get my band, Duke Livingston, back together after this pandemic.

From the other side of strange,



To everyone and no one – Everything I do I try to do in the moment, to push the most present of whatever grasps my attention at the time. Case in point, I am not thrilled about every drawing I do, but they serve a spiritual purpose for when they’re being done that supersedes aesthetic value. In the end they all take way too much time to do, whether I love them or not.


Review of Maldito by S.O. Bailey / General Address to the Writing Community

Caveat: there is no nepotism at play. I reached out to S.O. because he is a person I want to know more about, and in order to do that I have to read his material. In fact, the first contact I made was a direct message on Instagram showcasing a screenshot of my Amazon receipt for my purchase of Maldito. I joined the IG writing community (an unofficial entity, obviously) in October and have since kept my eyes open for anyone that I could build a rapport with in any community. I have scoured through many people, and once I followed S.O. I realized how many accounts we have in common, that we are in the same game. I’m not exactly a horror writer, but it is my native genre as far as movies go, and I believe that my themes overlap with horror in general. So, if I want to meet my peers, I have to look at horror, where everything seems to intersect.

To be honest, lately I’ve been watching more movies than reading books. This is because the mainstream publishing landscape seems to be saturated by SJW policies that either water-down and turn the project into a pamphlet rather than a creative work, or infringe on harmless trajectories that don’t fall in line with the scruples of modern Orwellian Newspeak. That’s the first thing that stood out to me in Maldito, that Bailey speaks plainly to the audience, the entire work is a blunt force excursion into the next page.

I believe movies are the best conveyor of the horror—and that’s where Maldito comes into play. From the first page, Maldito carries the spirit of a Netflix movie maybe six years ago, when you could find an eighty-minute shot to the face that left your heart pacing and mind reeling—when you could find them in abundance. I bought Maldito and read 40 of 54 pages the night I finally picked it up. Then it took a few weeks until I read the last fifteen pages. This lapse in reading wasn’t a lack of interest—I just didn’t want it to end! I can’t tell you how many books in my library I have read 75% of but haven’t finished out of fear that I won’t find anything to replace the excitement I have for that book. This is what happened with Maldito, except that I managed to finish it while confined in an airplane.

Since the book is so short, it’s hard to really dig into the plot without giving the story away. The summary is available on S.O.’s Amazon page, linked below. This review is purely reactionary. But I will say that every turn felt natural, and I did not expect the double twist at the end. The story wasn’t completely stark, which left a glimmer of hope for a happy ending. I can’t say how, but, although cathartic, the ending was not happy at all in the slightest for the characters of the story, but left a satisfying aftertaste in the mind of the reader with the final turns of Bailey’s knife.

Though I do not endeavor to become a book reviewer, the following is the breakdown I will follow I do review books (which I predict will remain in indie territory), and I’m happy to roll it out for Maldito:

Tone: The tone of the writing matched the environment of each scene. From the beginning, when the starring couple is at the tropical resort, each environment felt natural. As the story veered further off the beaten path, pardon the pun, so did the sense of comfort expressed in the writing. For the short span, this evolution in tension is very important.

Voice: As stated above, Bailey writes plainly to the audience, using the action of the plot and the horrors the characters experience rather than relying on poetic language. This directness works well for Bailey, who writes just enough to get all the necessary plot points in place, when he then seals them with confidence.

Plot and Pacing: Something that many writers struggle with is alternating backstory with the present stream of action. Bailey does not have that problem at all in this book. He always finds the best places to briefly drop expository elements that only strengthen the audience’s connection with the awful conflict.

Characters: Like many great horror stories, Maldito stars a couple on vacation. Bailey is honest about his characters and uses their weaknesses to enhance the peril they face. The marriage of the leading couple expresses an increasingly common dynamic in American culture, where the wife is the senior money earner while the husband reaches for his aspirations. In this case, the husband is an aspiring writer and the wife is a successful saleswoman. Over the course of the story, circumstance challenges the man’s masculinity, and Bailey does this fearlessly.

Thank you for reading my review of Maldito by S.O. Bailey. Though this is a book review of Bailey, it is also clearly an awesome vehicle to move my blog forward. My stints of opportunism tend to benefit the subject of my gaze, and I also want to be open about it. As this blog unfolds, I will be featuring other creatives to give my own testimony as to their development. You can always expect me to cast a burning spotlight on my peers and those I respect.This is a heavy review for 54 pages, but it’s also indicative of Bailey’s future as a writer, which is bloody and bright, regardless of how abysmal his imagination may be.

From the other side of strange,


Click cover image to buy Maldito by S.O. Bailey
S.O. Bailey; the t-shirt says it all.

My Views on Myself as an “Artist”, Horror, and Aesthetics.

My last post was a little academic in terms of minimalist recording with lofi gear, but that will not be the default case for this blog. I was just coming off from an uncomfortable blogging hiatus and needed to dig my teeth into something tangible, so I decided to spin out the steps of an exercise that those with some musical/technical know-how can partake. This entry stays more on the creatively reflective end of the spectrum.

// “Art”

Frankly, like many “artists”, I do not like artist as a descriptor for an individual. I forget who said this exact version of this concept, but, “You’re only an artist when you’re making art.” If you live by this mantra, you are only an artist when you are performing, not looking back with pride on something you have accomplished a mere two minutes prior. Regarding drawing, I don’t even advertise myself as an “artist”. Drawing is something I have been doing since I was a little kid, drawing tanks and guns inspired by the Marvel comics of the 90’s, He-man, you name it; I was born in 1986, what do you expect?

My first dream was to be a comic book artist, and that was pretty much all I did for years into middle school, when it was clear that my musical abilities presented a greater strength. So I continued to draw, even started out my college experience in the Graphic Design department at Kean University (I wanted to be a web designer, but my technical drawing class pushed me to change majors into English w/ Creative Writing Option).

At various times of my life I have seen my skills soar and stagnate as a fine artist, and the inconsistency has forced me to regard drawing as a hobby, something to bolster my other endeavors (I am driven toward total content creation, nothing derived unless for irony or tribute, and drawings are always one of the best ways to throw some flesh on the bones of your delivery). Though it is a hobby of mine, it is still part of my brand, and something I will continue to embark.

The Human Ink Filter Drawing Technique

Recently I have dabbled more in drawing, and will continue to re-strengthen my skills. Something that I have discussed with several artists lately is a new technique that I have been employing on my Instagram feed. I swear to God, I have always been the type to draw from scratch, not based on photos, comics, or any other media from which I could duplicate. So this new technique is a little different to me, something I have dubbed the “human ink filter”, wherein I trace the source image (will probably always be a photograph, why would I need to duplicate someone else’s drawing?) with pencil, then go over the outline with a pen or marker, erase the pencil, and finish the drawing with various ink and crosshatching techniques. As I describe in the caption of drawings created with this technique, the drawings themselves are meant to convey a sentiment above all, not show off my ability to draw a photo, there are millions of people who do that. So this is me coming clean or sharing something new to me, your choice.

// Horror

I’m not a goth, horror collector, or movie buff. However, it is clear that my inspirations are drawn from a place darker than the surface layer of reality, a place perhaps far more brutal than the average gore-fiend who looks into the lexicon for their entertainment–it’s all based in reality as I’ve experienced or seen it, not on pushing the boundaries of the audience’s sensibilities. Since I was a kid it has been my favorite genre, even though most horror movies lately are pretty fucking dumb. My fiance is into pop culture, so I don’t even really get to watch them with her.

When it comes to my writing and general, I have a genre-free approach. However, anyone can see that the underpinnings and influence of horror are intact down to the grammar. I am more of a Clive Barker than Stephen King fan when it comes to horror fiction, and Barker carries on literary traditions of horror from prior centuries (even if King is into older horror like Lovecraft or Poe, his aesthetics remind me more of MLB baseball cards from the ’80s and ’90s than tomes of true terror). Even with movies Barker takes the drivers seat of what really got to me as a kid: Hellraiser, Candyman, Lord of Illusions (the introduction really got me as a kid). Last thing on Barker–even though he illustrates hellish landscapes with his fiction, art, and films, the most horrifying feature is his treatment of infidelity and fraudulent trust between people, something that can be installed in a story of any genre and be perceived as horrific.

Last thing on horror is my magnetism toward accounts that are actively fixated on darker aesthetics and horror as a genre–as a creator, I faced a blank slate when I started establishing my online presence. Who the hell do I turn to to build an audience? My material is way too brutal and sexually abrasive/forward for the average mom’s book club, too “mature” for young adults. In short, there is no clean category to place me. However, I know that horror is designed inherently to test the boundaries of the audience, there is no too much. In fact, for many in horror it’s never enough. But for me it has to ring true to some extent, match the color scheme of my imagination, as it were. With me, there will always be more, and there will always be less. There will always be something.

// Aesthetics

As for aesthetics, again, I’m genre-free. My biggest advantage is that every image I use is created from the world in front of me. I’ll never have to worry about being creative when the world continues to exist, colors continue to swirl. I have no aesthetics. I feel no need to pry into the world around me, I’m already there. I don’t like to push brands, am not a fashionista, don’t have a fixation on dark clothing styles. Besides, look at me: it wouldn’t be hard to imagine me as a vampire feasting on your blood (down to the fact that my paternal grandmother was half Hungarian). But I’m not a vampire, so I don’t feel the need to give that impression. I don’t have any tattoos, I ink pages. Don’t have piercings, I buy earrings for my fiance. You can find me in my pajamas, a black t-shirt and jeans, a button-up, a suit, work uniform… but not in a denim jacket, latex suit, or an overcoat. However–I have a great appreciation for anyone who puts in the effort to create an effect, even down to their style. My goal is to fill a bubble where it is not being filled, and to appreciate those who run at a high creative capacity.

// The Takeaway

I do as I please, expect a seat at the table, and put in enough work to shatter placement in a convenient box.

From the other side of strange,


Bonus; Short Story Transcription:

Love is Blind

“Ben, stop making that stupid face.”

Ben snapped a look at her. He had been staring out the window at passing cacti and endless sand.

“Quit it with that face, too. Jesus, Ben, you’re a grown man, stop acting like a pathetic puppy.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Shirley? I’m just minding my own Goddamn business.”

“No, you’re thinking about that whore.”

Ben winced, the body of their dead relationship was not yet cold–they had woke in the same bed a mere two days before.

“Well, what the hell do you expect, Shirley?”

“That’s your problem, Ben. Even when it’s all laid out before you like Vicky with all those guys, you still can’t be a man. We all knew she was a little internet slut, how could you not have known that she’d get with all those guys?”

“Shut up, Shirley,” he yelled, his voice a loud short delay in the confinement of the shitty old car. He bit his fist, with all his strength fighting back the tears. He didn’t care how Vicky expressed herself, saw her page as a means to purge her soul of the elements that brought such an avid following.

Behind the crimson of his rage, however, was the shame that he had to find out. He felt further shame knowing he would be okay with her alternative lives in continued ignorance. But he felt the most shame knowing that Shirley knew he knew; at this point, what difference did it make that Shirley knew the whole time? He felt so exposed, he could barely look at her.

“I wish I didn’t know,” he said finally. “Then I wouldn’t have to worry about hearing your snide comments for the rest of fucking time.”

“She isn’t the only girl in the world, Ben. Get over her, and get over yourself.”

Ben resisted looking at himself in the passenger side mirror, the lanky, pimple-ridden face he could do nothing to flesh out or clear. He was lost in himself, the rope connecting him to the only thing that anchored him to an external world now snapped, sending him down the familiar river of despair.

“Ben, we all knew,” she pressed, her voice now softer. “You need to let her go.”

Ben yelled out again unintelligibly and banged both hands on the dashboard.

Shirley slammed on the breaks and shifted the car into park. “Stop being a child,” she said firmly.

“I can’t take this anymore,” he whimpered, now allowing the sobs to break the dam. “Stop torturing me.”

“Get out of the car,” Shirley demanded, herself opening the door and climbing out. “Out,” she insisted, tapping on the trunk.

He obeyed and stood beside her.

“I’m not tormenting you,” Shirley said, pressing the button to open the trunk. “And neither is Vicky. Not anymore. It’s only you torturing yourself.”

My Technical Process to Guitar Videos (Pseudo-tutorial)

Ran my blog for a while and ran into a brick wall. Now I’ve privatized all my old posts to start from scratch. No sense in deleting the old content, but I had to bridge the divide between where I left it and where I am now; I will probably re-categorize those posts and create a new page so you can see where I was during that stretch of time.

To embark the new incarnation of the blog, I will give you guys a little behind the scenes about my technical process.

(Note: uploads refer to Instagram posts)

Guitar/amp scenario:

I have four guitars that I have been using as of late: Red Fender Stratocaster with black pickguard, antique-wood seven-string Ibanez, bright pink Ibanez RG, and my Baby Taylor acoustic. I also own a couple that need to be set up: a black Gibson Les Paul Studio and a red ESP H-1000. With guitars like these, the tone is in the hands. The guitars themselves just carry the notes with different weight: the Fender is blocky and creamy, the Ibanez guitars cut through like lasers, the Les Paul is a mixture of both sounds. Tonal confidence in hand, I’m not too worried about the sound for the time being.

Why say it like that? Well, I have cut “quality” out the window in favor of efficiency. To record my videos, I use the internal amps of the Zoom H4n, a four-track handheld recorder, and the amp models in the Fender Mustang lunchbox-style amp. I have a Peavey XXX as well, but the opportunity hasn’t called for a tube amp yet (full disclosure, I need to have the tubes in that amp replaced).

In the Zoom, I choose the Diesel amp, then set the Limiter as follows: Threshold 10, ratio 3, release 0; in the amp settings, I lower the gain to 0 (the guitars carry their own weight in the end mix). For the Mustang, I dial in one of the amp models, plug a 1/8″ aux cable into the headphone out, plug into one of the Zoom’s two 1/4″ input channels, and assign that to a dry channel in the recorder. So that’s the amp setup.

Setting up songs in Zoom recorder

If I’m recording on top of audio, I have to jump through some hoops to get the song into the recorder. You have to have a .wav version available on your computer to load into one of the recorder’s file folders. This is easy to do in iTunes, where you can also buy the song you want to work on if you don’t want to rip it some other way. Edit the song so that it’s a minute long. Plug in the Zoom to a USB port via mini USB and set the device to USB mode, choosing the file storage option. Load the .wav file into one of the file folders in the Stereo folder in explore. Then exit USB mode on the recorder.

You’ll have to move the .wav stereo pair from the its folder in Stereo mode to a project in multi-track mode (MTR). Switch the recorder to MTR mode in the main menu and go to the project folder where you moved the stereo pair .wav file. Highlight channel 1 and scroll till you find the link option and click. Then scroll till you find the song and click. Now the song is loaded and you can record audio using the remaining two tracks (the link stereo pair occupies the first two).

Hours of preparing

I have a long list of songs that I want to go over, and therefore also have general plans for what I want to do with them once I get there. Oftentimes the final result is dramatically different than what I set out to do. This is usually because I succumb to the desire to make everything as layered as possible. In any case, it takes a long time to basically rewrite other peoples’ songs to get a hot guitar take on it. I’ll go over the song many times just to feel around, never with a click track when it’s to a band recording.

For metal recordings, I’ll typically use one guitar track so I don’t muddle the mix too much. For more ambient songs, I’ll record two guitar tracks to harmonize with each other. Again, it takes hours and hours to narrow in on something I can stand behind, then I’m ready to move onto the video aspect.

Recording and syncing video

If the song has more than one guitar layer, I will record the rhythm first and video the lead layer later. I set my phone on a tripod, use my Bluetooth controller to trigger the recording, and engage the Zoom to record. I’ll do up to twenty takes until I can finally play all the way through doing everything I planned in the rehearsal process. I have to constantly delete the file of that track’s recording with each time I make a mistake. Once it’s finally good to go, you have to bounce the project to a compressed .wav file. Turn the USB storage mode on again, move the bounced recording into iTunes, where you’ll convert the bounced .wav file into an .mp3 version. Move the .mp3 into your phone so that you can put the video project together.

I use Videoshop because, like my amp tone, “quality” of equipment isn’t a big priority at the moment, it’s all about the quality of the ideas. In Videoshop you’ll load the video of your performance and import the audio of the audio recording. Once the video and audio are loaded, you have to sync them. The audio will be your guide since it’s already a minute long, the maximum video length on Instagram. This part is a real bitch because it entails a lot of trial and error. You basically have to choose the video clip and click edit, and trim. You have to scroll the start point to a where it looks like the first note is being struck. At this point you can’t hear the way the trimmed video will match the audio. You have to click the green check and press play in the project area to see how well it matches up. After up to a dozen and a half attempts, the movements of your fingers on the guitar will match the movement in the audio.

I’ll then add a ton of filters on the videos to match the current theme of my feed. I’m very OCD about this, and am definitely going to expand my software capacity for the sheer need to have higher quality image filters to apply to the videos.

Till next time, stay classy.

From the other side of strange,